Or maybe it’s a funk. I can’t tell the difference.
Despite my recent post saying yeah-yeah-New-Years-Eve-whatever, I LIKE the beginning of a new year. I enjoy that sense of anticipation of the future, the feeling of changing the sheets on my mental bed, shaking out the dust bunnies — pick your cleaning metaphor — and getting ON with life, my work, all of it.
But for the first time ever, I’ve lost my oomph. Oh, I lose it periodically — we all do — but it’s only January 8th. What gives?
Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way. A friend, also a writer, says she’s experiencing this general malaise as well, a sense of “why bother?” although she would be the first to admit that she has many pleasures in life. A friend of hers put off going on a much looked-forward-to trip to Pennsylvania because she suddenly could not work up any enthusiasm for it. Is it something in the water? Something in the air? Something in our heads? My friend Ruth Shamansky calls it a crenk — a sort of illness with the only symptom being a general sense of blah.
Certainly there’s enough happening in the world at large to put a person off their food. Wars and death and famine and abuse and politics…oh, but the list she do go on. On the personal home-front, I have as many ups and down as the next person (the latest being a vet bill that unexpectedly doubled to the over-five-hundred-dollars mark). It always seems that at the moment when I’m beginning to feel optimistic that we might just be lifting our heads above water, that things are going our way, another wave comes along and gives me a nose-full. It’s demoralizing and frustrating, but I usually manage to soldier on and it doesn’t take long to find my sense of (black) humor in most situations.
But not this time.
I’ve dealt with depression in the past. This doesn’t feel like that slippery-sloped, open pit of despair, but it’s a close cousin. I’m fully aware of my many blessings and enormously grateful for each one. I’d be a fool to grouse. I love my marriage, my home, and my work. (Okay, honestly, I wish my sales were higher, but so does every writer except for maybe the really big guns). So why the sense that I can’t get out of my own way?
Jon Katz has written about the voice in his head. You know that voice, the one you can’t get away from. The one who tells you to give up, it’s hopeless, you’ll never amount to a hill of beans, no one will ever care, you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny. You know the one I mean. He finally came to recognize that voice in his own head and he named it, in order to be able to say “So-and-so, go take a hike.” I’d done the same awhile back. My gloom-and-doom voice is named Phyllis (apologies to all the Phyllises out there). I hadn’t heard from her in a long time, but I think part of the issue happening right now is that the bitch, like the walking dead, is crawling out of her grave again. It’s time for me to be aware of the signs, to listen for that voice and silence it. You can’t get anything good done with a litany of hopelessness running in your ear.
I don’t know if it’s the same for you. I’ve no major epiphany to share, a tried and true means to get back on the path. All I can do is discover what works for me and hope you do the same. For me, that meant setting the alarm for a change rather than lying abed until, oh, 6:30 or 7 (that’s late in this household). Today I was up at five, fed the cats, made my tea, and was here at the computer by 5:30 or so. I have a list of things to accomplish and I mean to work through it. (A list really helps. It puts everything out nice and clear, one by one, no chance of forgetting or letting something slide, and there’s such a feeling of accomplishment as you cross off each item once it’s complete.) Will I get everything done today? That remains to be seen, but I’m going to give it my best shot. And if I don’t, if Phyllis comes calling, telling me all the ways in which I’ve failed, I’ll knock her down the stairs. All I can ask of myself is to do my best, whatever that is on any given day, but it’s amazing how you can raise the bar on “best” if you make a little effort.
Which, in the end, is all I can require of myself (or anyone else for that matter). Work to my best ability. Don’t beat myself up, but don’t make lame excuses, either. Take responsibility. Move forward.
May you do the same.